Many years ago, I was invited with a group of Christians to go up to the top of a mountain overlooking Kyoto, Japan, to pray for the city and the people living there.
Now, Kyoto is surrounded by mountains on three sides, and on the top of nearly every peak, there is a temple complex. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that many of the Buddhist sects were historically quite warlike, or were involved in various political intrigues, so they had no choice but to build their temples in inaccessible places, as this gave them some small degree of protection from foes, or at least a warning that some army was drawing near.
Another reason, however, was spiritual. By building a temple in a high place, they were effectively laying claim to spiritual power over the areas the temple overlooked. Many of these temple complexes were explicitly built for the purpose of gaining spiritual authority over the city of Kyoto, which was the capital of Japan for hundreds of years.
The mountain peak we climbed was no different. At its top, there was a large temple complex.
My understanding when I was invited to the prayer walk was that we would be going to this location to pray for salvation and deliverance for the people of Kyoto, and this was why I went with the group.
However, this is not what happened.
Instead, the leader of the group prayed a general blessing on the area, and then silenced anyone else who tried to pray, and demanded our agreement with his prayers.
He never prayed for the people of Kyoto, for their salvation, for their deliverance from the worship of idols, or for the temple’s spiritual authority over the city to be cut. He did not weep for the idolatry there, or for the desecration of God’s creation by the presence of a place of heathen worship.
We stood in the middle of a Buddhist temple, and he prayed a blessing over it.
One could claim that by praying a blessing, he was praying for all of the above. However, after hearing his explanations later, I know that this is not true. Rather, his prayer was simply an act of mindless stupidity, based upon a superficial understanding of Romans 12: 14, which says, “Bless and do not curse.”
Once, in his presence, I provoked him to anger because I prayed for salvation, freedom, light, and life for others–he actually accused me of putting curses on people by praying this way! His own prayers were always for “blessing”, which to him meant only worldly prosperity and affluence.
Yet, the place that he was praying blessings upon was not altogether that dissimilar from the high places talked about in the Old Testament. And what does the Bible say about these high places?
I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars and pile your dead bodies on the lifeless forms of your idols, and I will abhor you.
Leviticus 26: 30.
Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than those who were before them had done. They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree.
1 Kings 14: 22-23.
The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns.
2 Kings 17: 9.
They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols.
Psalm 78: 58.
“In Moab I will put an end to those who make offerings on the high places and burn incense to their gods,” declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 48: 35.
You mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Sovereign Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys: I am about to bring a sword against you, and I will destroy your high places.
Ezekiel 6: 3.
I could go on and on with Scriptures, but suffice to say that God has placed a curse upon idols and temples on high places, and a curse upon those who worship there or tolerate them. And if we bless what God has already cursed, do we not bring ourselves under a curse as well?
This has a much wider application than merely temples in Kyoto. This man was actually part of a “Christian” movement in the US, and was following what is a popular teaching in some circles.
However, this teaching is wrong and is not from God, as in their prayers, many Christians are mindlessly blessing people, places, and things that God has cursed, and are effectively praying for God to bless sin.
I say “mindlessly”, because in their minds “blessing” only really means worldly blessing. Yet, what does Scripture say?
What good is it if someone gains the whole world but loses his soul?
Matthew 16: 26.
There is only one blessing that we can rightfully pray over someone who is lost and going to Hell: That they become saved. Any “blessing” that we might pray for them that does not lead to their deliverance and salvation is not just futile in the eternal realm, but may even be counterproductive and against God’s will.
Now, more than ever, the world needs prayer and intercession. However, our prayers need to be specific and to the point. We are not to pray a general “blessing” over people who are cursed or who are living an accursed lifestyle. Rather, we are to pray directly for their salvation, for their deliverance, for the power of evil influences over their lives to be cut off, for the destruction of every hindrance that keeps them from the knowledge of the Christ, for the Holy Spirit to deal with them using both his rod and his staff, and for them to be set free to walk in obedience to God. Inasmuch as such prayers are answered, the people we are praying for will find eternal blessing.
This is what Paul meant in Romans 12: 14 when he said that we should bless and not curse. Nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to pray for the wicked to prosper even more than they are already prospering. Rather, our prayers for them should be for them to find eternal life.